Thud Thud-Thud. Crash. Thud Thud-Thud. Crash. So the recognisable heartbeat of shoegaze goes, stoically pulsing through at least 25 years of dreamily fuzzed up sounds, its appearance a constant reminder that you are indeed listening to A Shoegaze Album. And we’ve been fine with that, for the most; the church of various interpretations on what was made notable by the Jesus & Mary Chain, the Cocteau Twins et al has never been broader in 2010, yet much like vultures picking at remnants of the initial kill, there’s at least as many groups looking to feed on the unwanted debris left by the likes of Deerhunter and Serena-Maneesh; Light Pollution are just such a band.
It’s Deerhunter who the Chicago quartet bear more resemblance to, the initial billowing swirls and prodding bass of opener ‘Good Feeling’ gives way to the decidedly Cox-esque ‘Oh, Ivory!’ Whilst strings and piano keys hoist them above pastiche here, they’re soon forgotten amidst the Thud Thud-Thud, Crash of ‘Drunk Kids,’ Deerhunter’s ‘Vox Humana’ in all but name. Too often songs come across as a pastiche of the Atlanta group, with none of the splashes of colour, none of the real sense of building atmosphere - even on the explicit attempts to create such spatial vastness on ‘Deyci, Right On’ and ‘Ssslowdreamsss’ - and, in James Michael Cicero, a vocalist who possesses an ounce of the charisma held by Deerhunter’s lead man.
If a straight band-to band comparison seems a little lazy then I apologise, but then there’s plenty of others to pit them against too, Light Pollution pick from a range of influences and don’t really know what to do with them: the collectively croaked choruses akin to Arcade Fire are on Apparitions, as are the methodical song structures of Grizzly Bear; treble-heavy Animal Collectivisms are littered throughout. 'Well what’s the problem? These are all fine groups', I hear you question, and yes, they are, but their ideas have been taken wholly rather than as templates and, furthermore, they’re laid neatly side by side as opposed to being blended together into a single song. There’s little to call individual here, which gives Apparitions a sense of numbness; the most they do is to drape a kind of wispy dream-pop sheen over proceedings, and this extends as far as the by-the-numbers song titles: ‘Fever Dreams,’ ‘Bad Vibes’ and the aforementioned ‘Ssslowdreamsss.’
It’s a shame really, because Light Pollution are clearly four pretty talented guys. The moments when they drift into sonic flotsam are to be cooed at even if they lack the emotional allure they’re aiming for, while at times, on the twisting, rumbling ‘All Night Outside’ for instance, they strike out with a verve and aggression lacking elsewhere on the album - it’s a song that retreats before returning with renewed vigour to meet its scuzzy explosion of a finale. And this is good, but it’s not enough when for the rest of it they give the impression of scrabbling about the dust left in the wake of their peers tracks. With a superb return from Autolux imminent, not to mention Deerhunter’s recent announcement of a fifth album, it’s likely that shoegaze’s heart will continue to beat strongly for a while yet; its pulse here, however, is faint at best.
5Simon Jay Catling's Score